Glynn Washington - "Back of the Bus"

Jul 31, 2015
Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

GLYNN WASHINGTON, HOST:

Today, from PRX and NPR, The Breakout Special. Performed live in San Francisco, you get the very best seat in the house because it's about to be on. SNAP JUDGMENT Live.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

WASHINGTON: OK, so...

(LAUGHTER)

WASHINGTON: I was a young lad living in Detroit, Mich., enjoying myself until my parents said no, no, no, no, no, we're taking y'all out to the country, middle of nowhere, going to be farmers. I didn't appreciate it, but they bribed me. And as a little kid, I got a Trapper Keeper, you know, had a "Scooby Doo" lunchbox, yo. I had one of those hats with the propeller on top of it. I was ready to go. It was the first day of school. They said go ahead, go on to school. And I went down the driveway to wait for the school bus. This was a new thing for me - school bus. So I was out there, and I saw it coming down the road. You could hear the kids screaming, hollering and yelling and shouting. The school bus pulls up - go on in here. I step in, and it goes silent. See, there weren't any black families in rural Michigan for about 100 square miles. No one had gotten the memo that one had arrived.

(LAUGHTER)

WASHINGTON: So I just wanted to go sit down in the first seat I saw next to this little towheaded boy, and he spit in the seat. I kept walking - spit, spit. And I'm getting near the end of the bus - sit yourself down, please. We've got to go. Everyone's shouting, they're yelling now. You know what they're calling me. And I get - I get all the way to the back of the bus, and I can't turn around. They're shouting, they're screaming, they're yelling. I can't turn around. There's a little girl. She has her backpack on a seat. She moves it and I sit down, and we ride. I don't say a word to her. I don't say anything to her. We ride, go to school. The next day, the shouting, the screaming, the hollering, I go right back to the back of the bus. And Mary Jo (ph) - I know her name is Mary Jo now - Mary Jo moves her backpack and I sit down. We do not speak. We just ride. And that's how it goes every single day, until the middle of the school year, they switch things up. And instead of being the last one on the bus, now I'm the first. But force of habit, I go right back to my regular seat. Now, in rural Michigan, nobody's rich. But some of us are really, really poor - poor farm families where you don't have enough insulation on your water, makes your pipe freeze in the middle of the winter. But you still have to do your chores - you still have to clean the barn; you still have to get chicken filth all over you. And when that happens on a cold Michigan winter, you have one of two choices. You can either go to school covered in filth or you can try to hide it with some cologne.

(LAUGHTER)

WASHINGTON: This day, Mary Jo went the cologne route. And when she got on that bus, it smelled like a skunk wrapped in rotten flowers. And the kids screamed and shouted and hollered. And Mary Jo, she looked right back at me. I looked away. I'd had enough. I've had enough. I was hoping she'd find - I just hoped she'd find somewhere else to sit. When she walked back - she walked back, the hollering, the screaming, the shouting - she walked back, and there I was with my backpack on the seat. I waited and I moved it. She sat down, and I was so ashamed. The hollering, screaming, the shouting - I didn't care. I just wanted to tell her - I wanted to tell her I was sorry. So I said hey, my name is Glynn. I don't know your name. What are you talking about? And so we talked. All the screaming and the hollering, they just went away. We talked like two little kids in the back of the bus.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

WASHINGTON: Now then, I can't tell you all how to be here today. I am thrilled to come to this stage one more time with some of the best storytellers in all the land. And you might not know this, but - but I brought some friends. Please say hello if you would, give a warm welcome, Mr. Alex Mandel.

(APPLAUSE)

WASHINGTON: David Brandt on the sticks. David Brandt on the sticks.

(APPLAUSE)

WASHINGTON: You got Tim Frick, Tim Frick, Tim, Tim, Tim Frick. Tim Frick, Tim Frick, Tim Frick. We'll call this one - we're calling this show The Breakout Special.

(APPLAUSE) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.